I have been suffering for a few years from chronic outer ear infections due to itchy ears which I scratch with a qtip or scratch in my sleep at night. Going to the doctor to get prescription ear drops was getting very expensive so I did a lot of experimenting with home remedies for curing outer ear infections and stopping the itchy ear. I will first give what works, then my testing methodology and finally what did not work to save all of you experimenters a lot of time.
First of all, if you have not had an ear infection before and aren’t familiar with the symptoms you should always go to the doctor first before trying any home remedy. Earaches can occur due to problems in the outer, middle and inner ear. Home remedies should only be used for outer infections and are not effective for the other two areas of the ear. Furthermore, if the ache is caused by a perforated eardrum, putting anything in your ear could cause severe pain sending you to an emergency room and do damage to your hearing.
Assuming you have an outer ear infection, what I recommend is the following: Begin by placing 4 to 5 drops of hydrogen peroxide 3% in the infected ear. Lay on your side for at least 10 minutes and let it bubble like crazy. Drain and add more if the bubbling decreases too quickly or bubbles out of the ear before the 10 minutes are up. Then drain. Even after draining you will hear bubbling for at least 10 more minutes. Hydrogen peroxide should not produce any significant pain. If it does, drain immediately and see a doctor ASAP. After draining and the bubbling has mostly subsided, dry the ear with a hair dryer holding it six inches from the ear. This first step with the hydrogen peroxide is done to quickly kill as much bacteria as possible for the purpose of reducing the inflammation and hence the aching pain. Even though hydrogen peroxide is good for killing a lot of bacteria quickly, it has also been shown to inhibit wound healing which is why you got the infection in the first place (probably from using qtips which is a common cause). So you should only do this step once in the beginning.
Now add 3 to 4 drops of “willow/garlic ear oil” made by “Herbs for Kids” (or use the other 2 suggested remedies below) into the ear wiggling it to make sure the oil sinks all the way in. Then place a cotton ball or tissue lightly on the outside of the ear to catch the oil as it drains. Also, take an Ibuprofan which is an anti-inflammatory. This will also reduce the pain caused by the swelling in the ear. You should be feeling relief within a few hours. If it still hurts the same in 24 hours see a doctor. Continue to apply the oil drops 3 to 4 times a day for 7 to10 days and that should do it. The oil is like a band-aid that prevents the bacteria from growing which, if left unchecked, would prevent the wound from healing. The 7 to 10 days gives the wound enough time to heal to a level where the ear canal naturally prevents bacteria from penetrating it. Also, try to keep water out of the ear during showering. I place a few drops of oil in the infected ear to set up a barrier to the water right before showering as a precaution.
To control the itchy ear, I place a few drops of just plain extra virgin olive oil in the offending ear. The itch will go away in a few minutes and the ear will be itch free for the rest of the day. I reapply oil if the itch returns.
HOW I CONDUCTED MY TESTING AND REACHED MY TREATMENT PLAN.
Exterior ear infections are mostly due to the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus (I have done no testing regarding fungal infections). Both of these bacteria react to hydrogen peroxide. So, a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution was used to test for the presence of bacteria in the infected ear canal. This test was done for two prescription treatments for comparative purposes as well as for many various home remedy tests. Zero bubbling means no bacteria. Light bubbling (you can count the bubbles within the first five seconds) means there is some bacteria but it is insignificant. Medium bubbling is too fast to count but noticeably dissipates after 4 or 5 minutes. This indicates a reduced level of bacteria. Even a healthy ear can have this level of bacteria in the ear canal. So long as the canal is not compromised there should not be an infection. Heavy bubbling erupts immediately and sounds like a frothing volcano in your ear. It indicates a full-blown infection. A peroxide test was done about twice a day to measure the effectiveness of the treatment in question.
Cortisporan is the most commonly prescribed antibiotic eardrop by doctors. It consists of Neomycin Sulfate and Polymycin B sulfate as well as hydrocortisone for reducing inflammation. The treatment calls for 2 to 4 drops in the ear 3 to 4 times a day for 7 days. This treatment schedule was followed for all tests. Within 24 hours of the start of the cortisporan treatment, the peroxide test produced zero bubbles. The zero continued throughout the treatment. Not surprisingly, this was the most effective treatment.
Ofloxacin is another prescription eardrop. Within 24 hours the peroxide test produced light bubbling. By 48 hours it was zero. During the whole course of the treatment of 7 days the peroxide test would vacillate between mostly zero but occasional light bubbling.
OVER THE COUNTER HERBAL REMEDIES THAT SEEM EFFECTIVE.
1) As compared to the prescription ear drops, the best herbal treatment was the “Willow/Garlic Ear Oil” by “Herbs for Kids”. Within 24 hours the peroxide test produced light bubbling. Within 48 hours it was at zero to light. It vacillated between zero and light bubbling during the 7 day treatment but was mostly zero. This treatment was nearly equal to the Ofloxacin in effectiveness. Nor did the treatment cause pain. It is not too expensive. It costs about $10 for a 30ml bottle which is enough to do at least 4 full 7 day treatments. It also claims to have a pretty long shelf life.
2) The second best remedy was home made garlic oil. This was 6 medium sized fresh garlic cloves finely minced and added to 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a small pan. The olive oil must be extra virgin. The other olive oils are not as effective. Place over medium to medium high heat stirring until the garlic begins to sizzle. Let the garlic sizzle for 30 to 60 seconds. It may get brown but don’t burn it. Let cool. Then pour it into a basket type coffee filter and ring the oil through it like a tea bag into a clean glass. This removes all the bits of garlic. Within 24 hours of starting the treatment the bubbling test was medium to light. Within 48 hours it was light to zero. Within 72 hours it was zero. It vacillated between zero and light thereafter but was mostly zero. I have no idea of the shelf life but the oil remained effective throughout the 7 to 10 day treatment. It was not refrigerated.
3) Two home remedies tied for third. One was plain extra virgin olive oil and the other was ear drops made by “NutriBiotic” which consists of tea tree oil and grapefruit seed extract. Within 24 hours the test produced medium bubbling. Within 48 hours both treatments got close to light bubbling but not quite. Even within 72 hours neither seemed to be able to break through to the light bubbling level. I would use these if you had no other options. These certainly have an antibiotic effect and would reduce or control the infection until you could use a more potent remedy.
For those of you who like to experiment, I have included my failures to save you the trouble, expense and risk to your ears. These Home Remedies were applied 3-4 times a day and either failed to reduce the bacterial infection, caused too much pain, or produced a middle ear infection.
1) Only Hydrogen peroxide 3%. (Failed to reduce over time. The bacteria seems re-grow to original level between each application)
2) Only Rubbing alcohol 70% (Burned too much. Stopped treatment.)
3) Oil removed from “Garlicforce” garlic tablets. (Burned too much. Stopped treatment.)
4) Oil removed from “Mustard seed” odor reduced garlic tablets. (Too thick. Wouldn’t drain. Got stuck in ear. Stopped treatment)
5) One clove of minced/mashed garlic to one tablespoon distilled water. Let sit for 15 minutes. Liquid strained by a coffee filter. (Failed to reduce over time. Burned the ear. Produced a middle ear infection)
6) One clove of minced/mashed garlic to one tablespoon extra virgin olive oil. Let sit for 15 minutes. Strained with a coffee filter. No heating. (It seemed to reduce the bacteria significantly in 24 hours but within 48 hours a middle ear infection developed. Stopped treatment.)
7) One teaspoon of over the counter Antibiotic cream containing Neomycin and Polymycin B sulfates mixed with 2 teaspoons of distilled water and 2 teaspoons of 70% rubbing alcohol. (Even this much diluted, the solution did not drain well from the ear. It also produced a middle ear infection.)
8) Minereal oil only. (Failed to reduce the infection.)
I hope this has been of some help to all of you. May the Lord grant you healthy ears soon!